Mikeal Vaughn is an IT professional and project manager— and also, “a kid from north Tulsa,” he says with a chuckle. The founder of Urban Coders Guild, Mr. Vaughn spent years working in information technology in Japan before returning home to Tulsa to educate young Black men and women about coding and building apps.
But teaching computer sciences to underserved students isn’t all that Urban Coders Guild does. The program breaks down barriers to accessibility, from providing meals to transportation to instruction — and even MacBooks for Urban Coders Guild’s emerging IT professionals.
Mr. Vaughn’s dream is to expand Urban Coders Guild as a local ecosystem of information technology development, where students enter into an apprenticeship-type program to learn the skills, integrate their education, then turn around and teach the next generation. That’s why he considers the program as a guild rather than an educational enrichment program.
Building a mindset of innovation
“We have so much talent here in Tulsa,” he said in an interview with The Black Wall St Times. “We don’t have to import it; we can nurture what we have right here, and enhance the surrounding communities.”
Noting that coding skills go beyond STEM into English and humanities, Mr. Vaughn aims to educate young people on critical thinking and a mindset of innovation. While he adamantly refuses to label himself as a visionary, he does have a vision of what the Urban Coders Guild can do for underserved communities in north Tulsa.
He also recognizes the importance of working with young students of color, who often lack role models in IT and tech. Noting the benefits of a shared lived experience, Mr. Vaughn wants students — and their families — to have the chance to experience what IT has to offer, from jobs providing high salary and excellent benefits, to opportunities to create innovative solutions for major organizations and companies.
Breaking through frustration
To that end, Mr. Vaughn came back to Tulsa from Japan, jokingly describing his decision to return as “my answer to a mid-life crisis.” He knew he wanted to give back to the community that had provided him with the enrichment opportunities to become an IT professional, and a project manager.
Urban Coders Guild aims to educate kids on all aspects of technology, even starting with typing and using apps, before moving on to coding and app creation. “Coding is tedious work,” Mr. Vaughn admits, confirming that some students get frustrated before breaking through to an aha moment. “We encourage our students to come back for every twice-weekly session, knowing there will be a time when all the pieces of IT and technology come together for each student.”
Those moments — and the connections made from learning coding skills that serve as life lessons — are what sustains Urban Coders Guild, a non-profit organization that receives funding from grants and philanthropists. Mr. Vaughn reminds the young students of color that learning IT and computer science skills is a pathway to a professional career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), a place where Black and Brown professionals are a minority.
Urban Coders Guild
“We are a beacon of hope for kids,” Mr. Vaughn says of Urban Coders Guild, “We empower young Black and Brown students, and remind them what they are capable of.”
To learn more about Urban Coders Guild, including registration for the next summer or fall program, go to urbancodersguild.org